Today’s news from PoliticsNJ.com

Levy resigns as mayor of Atlantic City, Speedy Marsh becomes interim mayor, Hackett indicted, another Jersey City judge leaves office in wake of ticket-gate, Wayne Bryant’s attorney attacks Chris Christie, former Atlantic County Republican treasurer charged with paying bribes.

ANOTHER ATLANTIC CITY MAYOR LEAVES OFFICES PREMATURELY

“Atlantic City Mayor Robert Levy resigned yesterday, two weeks after dropping out of sight amid reports that he was under investigation for embellishing his military service record and possibly receiving disability benefits he did not deserve.

Levy, 60, a Democrat and Vietnam vet who took office in January 2006, concluded that “public confidence is so eroded” that he decided to resign, his lawyer said yesterday. The lawyer, Edwin Jacobs, also confirmed that he was in discussions with the U.S. attorney over Levy’s claims that he had received two awards, “neither of which appear to be supported,” Jacobs said.

Levy is engaged in final-round plea negotiations with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Camden, according to federal sources who asked to not be identified because the talks are ongoing. He is expected to agree to a plea deal on a charge of making false statements on a government form, they said.

News of the resignation marked one of the weirder chapters in Atlantic City history, but it also paved the way for more upheaval. City council president William “Speedy” Marsh immediately took over as interim mayor, but a special election could follow.

The rules of mayoral succession in Atlantic City were not immediately clear. Neither the interim mayor nor the city clerk could be reached yesterday. Lee Moore, a spokesman for state Attorney General Anne Milgram, said: “We’re not commenting. It’s not straightforward.”

Former state Sen. Bill Gormley (R-Atlantic) called Levy’s resignation “sad” but said he didn’t believe the city would suffer in the long term. “Hopefully everyone will work together to move the city forward.”

Gov. Jon Corzine, who spent the past week strongly suggesting that Levy explain himself, did not directly address the mayor’s resignation when asked about it during an appearance in Newark yesterday.

“The most important thing that happened in Atlantic City today was MGM announcing that they’re going to put in a $4.5 to $5 billion investment,” Corzine responded. When pressed about Levy, he added: “I was concerned about this political dislocation. I’m glad it’s moving in a right direction and will get cleaned up in a due-process format.” ” (Patterson, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-8/1192077973259030.xml&coll=1

 

“IT’S GOING TO BE A ZOO”

 

ATLANTIC CITY – Marching from his attorney’s office on Atlantic Avenue through a municipal park to the vacant mayor’s office, City Council President William “Speedy” Marsh stopped when he saw his sister, Hope, waiting at the City Hall entrance.

“Happy Birthday,” he said to her as they embraced. “This is the best celebration we could have.”

Marsh was sworn in as the resort’s mayor Wednesday afternoon by City Clerk Rosemary Adams. That was just hours after former Mayor Bob Levy resigned amid an ongoing federal investigation into his military record and after Levy had returned from a stay at a Somerset County clinic that specializes in mental health and addiction recovery.

Marsh declined comment after reading a short prepared speech.

“It is important for the people of Atlantic City to know that the chaos that has surrounded the administration side of their government is now over,” he said…………

“I never could have imagined this,” said Marsh with a smile plastered on his face, which remained throughout the afternoon.

As City Council members George Tibbitt, Bruce Ward and Marty Small waited outside the office for Marsh to emerge, all three discussed the complications to come.

“It’s going to be a zoo, it’s going to be a riot. But we’re ready for it,” Tibbitt said later.

The city’s Democratic Committee, headed by city school board member Scott Evans, has until Oct. 25 to hold a yet-unscheduled emergency meeting and name three potential replacements, who must be Democrats. Council then has until Nov. 9 to pick one of the candidates.

If all three nominees are rejected, the decision reverts to the city party, which would have until Nov. 24 to unilaterally select a city Democrat. If the city party does not submit names, council can fill the seat.

A special election could also be called in the unlikely case that neither the city nor the party picks a successor.

“There’s always the fear that there are going to be some games played,” Tibbitt said. “I’m sure they’ll nominate two goofs and then the person they want in there.”

http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/top_story/story/7508491p-7406355c.html

 

“MIMS IS COOL”

“Orange Mayor Mims Hackett initially rejected a $5,000 payment in exchange for steering city business to a fictitious insurance company created by federal law enforcement authorities, according to an indictment handed down yesterday.

During a meeting in an alley behind City Hall this summer with a cooperating federal witness, Hackett was handed a brochure about the insurance company that contained the money.

“Oh, there’s some money in here,” Hackett is recorded as saying. “I don’t want that.”

But Hackett ultimately accepted the down payment on what was to be a $30,000 bribe for helping the insurance company, Coastal Solutions LLC, win a city contract, according to the indictment.

The two-count, nine-page federal indictment handed down by a grand jury sitting in Trenton, largely mirrors the allegations contained in a criminal complaint that U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie’s office filed against Hackett on Sept. 6, when the 65-year-old Essex County Democrat was taken into custody, at his Alden Street home, in handcuffs………..

“Mayor Hackett hopes that the people of Orange, as well as the other folks who read the indictment or new accounts, recognize that he is entitled to a presumption of innocence,” said attorney John A. Azzarello, the Chatham lawyer representing Hackett.” (Dilworth, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/essex/index.ssf?/base/news-4/1192078109259030.xml&coll=1

According to the indictment, Hackett had a lunch meeting in Orange on May 24, 2007, with an unnamed elected official, two FBI cooperating witnesses and an undercover law enforcement agent who claimed to be a representative of Coastal Solutions Inc., a fictitious company. After the meeting, one of the cooperating witnesses met privately with Hackett and offered a $5,000 up-front payment if the mayor used his influence to steer city business to Coastal. A $25,000 payment was promised if the city hired the company.

After a follow-up meeting on Aug. 14, Hackett met privately with one of the cooperating witnesses in an alley behind City Hall.

Here’s the exchange:

COOPERATING WITNESS-2: This is a brochure on the benefits.

HACKETT: Yes, okay.

CW-2: It’s what we talked about before.

HACKETT: Right, okay.

CW-2: Okay.

HACKETT: And then get a few more together. Oh, there’s some money in here. I don’t want that.

CW-2: No, that’s, we had, for the RFQ (Request for Proposal). We’ll just get it started and then we’ll go from there.

HACKETT: Oh, okay.

CW-2: As soon as, if [an Orange official] has to get together with [Orange Official 1] … I think that the process can move way before October. Shouldn’t be any big problem. And again, thank you very much for your help.

HACKETT: Thank you, all right.

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/essex/index.ssf?/base/news-4/1192078036259030.xml&coll=1

 

DROPPING LIKE FLIES IN JERSEY CITY

“Yet another Jersey City Municipal Court judge has been disrobed.

Vincent Signorile, a full-time judge at the court for more than a decade, took an immediate leave of absence without pay yesterday amid an ongoing state investigation into the improper dismissal of parking tickets.

Signorile’s departure makes it five Jersey City justices who have either taken leave or resigned due to the probe that began last month when two court employees were suspended based on allegations they fixed more than 65 of their own tickets.

The most prominent judge to give up the bench has been Chief Judge Wanda Molina, who on Sept. 21 resigned in the wake of allegations she improperly disposed of parking tickets issued to her female companion, according to law enforcement officials.

The judges have been falling like dominoes since, with Judges Victor Sison, Irwin Rosen, Pauline Sica, and now Signorile all taking leaves.

The state Attorney General’s Office, the lead agency conducting the investigation, has refused to confirm or deny whether the judges’ resignation and leaves are tied to “Ticketgate,” but county and city officials have said the departures are all due to the probe……

In his 11 years on the bench, Signorile has been involved with a few notable cases, including the assault charge case against Michelle Rodriguez, the actress who starred in the movie “Girlfight” and got killed off on the hit TV show “Lost.” ” (Thorbourne, Jersey Journal)

http://www.nj.com/news/jjournal/index.ssf?/base/news-5/119208413199500.xml&coll=3

 

EAST ORANGE JUDGE APPARENTLY FOLLOWS JERSEY CITY’S EXAMPLE

Investigators from the Essex County judiciary swept into the East Orange Municipal Court yesterday and seized records of parking tickets — a review prompted by allegations that a municipal judge threw out a friend’s ticket.

Essex County Assignment Judge Patricia Costello said she ordered the inquiry after Municipal Court Judge Sybil Elias was charged last month with dismissing a ticket issued to a friend, former Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Patrice Davis.

Costello said she wanted to prevent the emergence of the type of ticket-fixing scandal that recently led to the resignations of two municipal court judges in Jersey City.

“We are looking into certain practices,” she said. “I would like to avoid something like what happened in Jersey City.”

Costello would not comment on whether there are any indications that ticket fixing in East Orange went beyond the single instance involving Elias, a part-time judge in East Orange and Irvington. She said the review is focused only on East Orange.

Accompanied by Essex County sheriff’s officers, officials from the Trial Court Administrator’s Office for the Essex vicinage went to the municipal court, at Freeway Drive East and South Munn Avenue, and collected what Costello described as “a sampling” of parking tickets. “

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/essex/index.ssf?/base/news-4/1192078127259030.xml&coll=1

 

FIND AN UNINDICTED DEMOCRAT WHO WILL SAY THIS

“State Sen. Wayne Bryant’s lawyer accused U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie of targeting his client for political reasons, in one of a series of motions the defense filed in federal court yesterday challenging the high-profile corruption case.

Carl Poplar, Bryant’s attorney, asked U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson for a hearing to determine whether “selective prosecution” was at play in Bryant’s indictment on bribery, fraud and corruption charges earlier this year. Bryant is a Democrat and the former chairman of the powerful Senate Budget Committee.

Christie, a Republican appointed by President Bush in 2001, has won praise from leaders in both parties for convicting dozens of corrupt public officials. None of the public officials he has charged with corruption has been acquitted.

Poplar contends Christie’s efforts have not been bipartisan and have focused too heavily on Democrats. He noted that Christie, a former Morris County freeholder, was active in Republican politics and a major fundraiser for Bush before becoming U.S. attorney.

“The U.S. Attorney’s political aspirations are well-known,” Poplar wrote, referring to widespread speculation that Christie will leave office to challenge Gov. Jon Cor zine in 2009. ” (Whelan, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-8/1192078094259030.xml&coll=1

 

THAT NEST EGG COULD COME IN HANDY

“Former Newark Mayor Sharpe James’ co-defendant in his public corruption case is seeking to have the court finance her legal expenses, claiming she can’t afford to pay her high-powered attorney to fend off allegations that she got rich from fraudulent city land deals.

Tamika Riley was indicted along with James this summer on charges of fraud, conspiracy and tax violations. Federal prosecutors allege Riley purchased nine city- owned properties at fire-sale prices totaling $46,000, then quickly sold the lots for $700,000.

James and Riley allegedly shared a “close personal relation ship,” and in addition to steering the land deals her way, the former mayor took Riley on lavish personal vacations for which the city picked up the tab, according to authorities.

Gerald Krovatin, the veteran Newark defense attorney representing Riley, yesterday said she would apply to a program under which the federal court pays court- appointed attorneys $92 an hour for their services.

Krovatin said that figure is well below his ordinary fee of several hundred dollars an hour, but he declined to be more specific. Of the roughly $650,000 that Riley allegedly made from the land deals, he said, “at this point, it’s an allegation in an indictment.”

The move came after U.S. District Judge William Martini denied a request by Krovatin to drop out of the case after the attorney said Riley couldn’t afford to pay him. Martini said he would consider making Krovatin Riley’s court-appointed attorney and having the court pay him if she qualified as indigent.” (Whelan, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-8/1192077943259030.xml&coll=1

 

LET’S SEE HOW FAST POLITICAL FRIENDS DISOWN HIM

“A prominent Atlantic City real estate agent was charged with bribery earlier this week in an ongoing FBI probe of political corruption in the South Jersey resort.

Frank Barbera, a former treasurer for the Atlantic County Republican Party, had an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Camden on Tuesday and was released on $100,000 bond, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which provided details of the arrest yesterday.

Long rumored to be a target of the probe – dubbed “Operation Steal Pier” – Barbera is the seventh defendant charged in the case, which has been built around alleged cash-for-contract schemes.

His arrest came amid new political turmoil sparked by the resignation yesterday of Mayor Bob Levy, who is rumored to be the target of a separate federal investigation into whether he inflated his claim to a military pension.

Barbera was charged with paying four bribes totaling $5,000 to former Atlantic City City Council President Craig Callaway in 2005. Barbera paid the bribes, authorities charged, while seeking Callaway’s support for development projects Barbera was involved in, including a potential billion-dollar deal to develop Bader Field, the city’s now-shuttered local airport.

Callaway cooperated with the FBI and secretly recorded conversations with Barbera, according to an FBI affidavit made public yesterday.” (Anastasia, Philadelphia Inquirer)

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/local/nj/20071011_A_7th_arrest_in_A_C__corruption.html

 

 

PAY-TO-PLAY IS ALIVE AND WELL IN NEW JERSEY

“Businesses that were paid nearly $5.2 billion by state, local and county agencies last year contributed more than $11.6 million to political candidates and fundraising committees, according to newly released data on government contracts and political donations.

Under a January 2006 law, 1,672 companies filed reports on their contracts and donations with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission, which made the reports available online yesterday.

The reports give the public its first comprehensive look at the way money flows between businesses and professionals that provide services to government agencies and politicians running for office.

The reports give the public its first comprehensive look at the way money flows between businesses and professionals that provide services to government agencies and politicians running for office.

The law is intended to reduce the influence of political contributions on the awarding of government contracts. It sharply restricts donations from contractors to candidates for governor and other executive offices, and to the state Democratic and Republican parties. But they can still give to state legislators, county freeholders and other elected officials who have no direct control over their contracts.

“It’s the government contracting system which is the locus of corruption in New Jersey,” said Harry Pozycki, chairman of the Citizens Campaign and one of the earliest proponents of broader disclosure by public contractors of their “pay-to-play” practices.

An analysis of the data shows that several professional firms with long traditions of political giving remain major donors.

For instance, Remington & Vernick, a Haddonfield engineering firm with $23.6 million in public contracts, gave $483,880 in donations, the most of any firm. CME Associates, a Parlin engineering firm, doled out $404,899 in donations and received $20 million in contracts. Richard A. Alaimo Associates of Mount Holly, a third engineering firm, sent out checks worth $189,550 and reported contracts totaling $7.2 million. ” (Donohue and McNichol, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-8/1192078136259030.xml&coll=1

The filings will likely renew debate about whether all government vendors should be banned from political contributions.

“Disclosure is a good thing, but we should go beyond disclosure and ban it,” said Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance, R-Hunterdon.

Assemblyman Joseph Cryan, D-Union, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said he still believes the best solution is to do away with pay-to-play restrictions but have lower contribution limits with instant disclosure.

“The most fundamental way to do this process is to have consistent lower limits. . . . And instant reporting of donations and expenditures is a better way to go,” Cryan said.

Only one of the top donor/contractors returned a call seeking comment — T&M Associates of Middletown, which gave the most, $599,545, while holding $30.7 million worth of engineering contracts.

“It’s a reflection of the quality of the work that they do and the size of the organization,” T&M spokesman Pete McDonough said. “The size of their contributions relative to the amount of contracts they have is right on the average across the board.” (Volpe and Prado Roberts, Gannett)

http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071011/NEWS/710110422

 

PUERTO RICAN JUDGES GET AROUND MENENDEZ’S SECRET HOLD

“The federal judges in Puerto Rico this week unanimously selected Rosa Rodriguez-Velez to be the island’s U.S. attorney, circumventing a parliamentary maneuver that Sen. Robert Menendez is using to hold up Rodriguez-Velez’s Senate confirmation.

Rodriguez-Velez, a career prosecutor and the No.2 official in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Puerto Rico, was tapped by President Bush in January to take over the top job. She was named acting U.S. attorney last spring by then-U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez.

But the Senate has not voted on her confirmation because of a so-called “anonymous hold” placed on the nomination by Menendez (D-N.J.). And the temporary appointment was scheduled to expire this week.

The vote of Puerto Rico’s federal judges enables Rodriguez-Velez to hold the post for up to four years or until the Senate confirms a nominee. The judges’ decision was included in an order filed in U.S. District Court in San Juan on Tuesday.

“While that appointment will last until the vacancy is filled, we continue looking forward to quick action in the Senate on her nomination,” Justice Department spokesman Evan Peterson said yesterday.

Menendez has repeatedly declined to comment on the Rodriguez-Velez nomination or the hold, which has been the subject of news reports in Puerto Rico and was confirmed to The Star-Ledger by a Senate staffer. Menendez’s spokesman, Afshin Mohamadi, again declined to comment yesterday.

Rodriguez-Velez also has declined to discuss her nomination or the politics surrounding it. But in a recent interview, she said of Menendez: “I don’t know him. I’m sure he doesn’t know me. And I’m sure he doesn’t have any knowledge of my record as a career prosecutor or my conviction rate.” ” (Margolin, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/index.ssf?/base/news-12/1192078535288150.xml&coll=1

 

THE FUTURE OF JOHN MOLINELLI

“Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli says that he doesn’t expect to experience any political fallout from the news that he took a trip to Italy accompanied by embattled State Senator Joseph Coniglio, the target of a federal corruption probe.

“I got a lot of calls from supporters who wonder why it’s even an issue…. I look at myself in the mirror and say ‘I don’t have an issue with what I did’,” said Molinelli, who paid for the trip with his own money.

But some powerful political insiders disagree — the news that the county prosecutor took a trip with an elected official under federal investigation may have further jeopardized his chance of being reappointed to the position, according to one high ranking Democratic official.

As it stands, Molinelli is a holdover as Bergen County prosecutor – since June, state Sen. Loretta Weinberg has exercised Senatorial courtesy and refused to sign off on his re-nomination. But even if Weinberg was to allow the nomination to proceed, the Senate Judiciary Committee will be unlikely to approve him.

“It makes us question whether he really wants to separate himself from potential wrong doers,” said the source. “It brings into disrepute his integrity and the office’s integrity.”

Weinberg has refused to comment on allegations against Molinelli that have caused her to hold up his nomination, acknowledging only that the Attorney General’s office is reviewing the circumstances and that she will make a decision on what to do about the nomination once the matter is resolved. Weinberg has stated numerous times that she will not reveal the allegations without Molinelli’s permission, and that she has no idea if they’re true.

According to a different source with knowledge of the case, Weinberg’s concerns were brought about by an anonymous letter she received that accused Molinelli of using law enforcement resources to examine the financial history of Weinberg and her Assembly running mates, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Gordon Johnson. The letter says that the research was done on behalf of Bergen County Democratic Organization Chairman Joseph Ferriero.” (Friedman, PoliticsNJ.com)

http://www.politicsnj.com/future-john-molinelli-12564

“Two weeks ago, Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli and his traveling pals broke bread in Reggio di Calabria, a port city perched near the bottom of Italy’s big toe. Now, Molinelli may pay a steep price for his excursion to southern Italy: Governor Corzine could give him the boot.

A less-than-pleased Corzine ordered state officials to review Molinelli’s decision to go on the trip after this column reported Tuesday that state Sen. Joe Coniglio, the Paramus Democrat who is the target of a federal investigation, was a last-minute addition to the nine-member traveling party.

There has been no suggestion that Molinelli broke any laws or violated any written ethical guidelines. What he did was exercise bad judgment: Bergen County residents have a right to expect their top cop to be prosecuting criminals, not taking international road trips with politicians who are themselves facing possible indictments.

It’s not clear all the steps being explored by the administration, but pulling the plug on a second five-year term for Molinelli is among the possibilities on the table, an administration official said.

“It’s premature to say, one way or the other, at this point,” Lilo Stainton, the governor’s spokeswoman, said of any chance that Molinelli’s nomination for reappointment may be withdrawn.

Perhaps the administration might want to consider other avenues as well to avoid similar missteps in the future. How about beefing up the prosecutor’s code of ethics to ban trips like this, or requiring prosecutors to disclose such associations ahead of time, or establishing clear standards that would distance prosecutors from their past political alliances? ” (Stile, Bergen Record)

http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk4NTYmZmdiZWw3Zjd2cWVlRUV5eTcyMDYyMDImeXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXkz

 

HERE’S ONE REFORM WEINBERG PROBABLY WON’T CHAMPION

“Reform advocates tried to gather some campaign steam Wednesday for a move to end senatorial courtesy, an unwritten privilege that enables state senators to block a governor’s appointment for any rhyme or reason.

“We feel it is a definitive issue for anybody who casts themselves as a reformer,” said former Sen. Bill Schluter of Mercer County, a longtime Republican who ran as an independent for governor in 2001.

“Clearly it’s a blackball system,” Schluter said of the unwritten practice, apparently used earlier this year by Sen. Nia Gill, D-Essex, to delay the ascent of then-Attorney General Stuart Rabner to chief justice of the state Supreme Court.

Former Sen. Gordon MacInnes, a Democrat from Morris County, said senators use the courtesy at the direction of the chairman of the county’s party committee.

“This does give senators the ability to intimidate,” MacInnes said.

The two former senators, representing a group called Citizens for the Public Good, were joined at a Statehouse news conference by Sandra Matsen, past president of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey.” (Baldwin, Gannett)

http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071011/NEWS03/710110416/1007

 

ANOTHER THING FOR MCGETTIGAN AND LEVINSON TO ARGUE ABOUT

“Are you ready for some football? More importantly, are you ready for some football and Dennis Levinson and James McGettigan?

Unable to agree on just about anything during their campaign for Atlantic County executive, incumbent Republican Levinson and Democratic challenger McGettigan now can’t agree about where some of their campaign commercials will air.

McGettigan said ESPN offered him equal time to run his commercials on “Monday Night Football” because that’s where Levinson’s commercials will run.

Wrong, Levinson said, noting that his commercials aren’t scheduled to run on the show. The only thing for sure is that their commercials began running this week.” (Barlas, Press of Atlantic City)

http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/campaign/story/7508481p-7406403c.html

Republican Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson and his Democratic challenger, Atlantic County Sheriff James McGettigan, both began running 30-second campaign commercials this week.

In a commercial titled “Fiscal,” Levinson says, “We’ve held spending well below the state average” and taxpayer money is “well-managed.”

“I’m Executive Dennis Levinson and in Atlantic County, taxpayers come first,” Levinson says. “Together, let’s make sure taxpayers remain first.”

In his second commercial, titled “Environment,” Levinson says how Atlantic County is “nationally recognized for protecting our environment.” The county is preserving hundreds of acres of farmland, he says, and is using wind and solar power and hybrid and biodiesel vehicles to save energy.

“On Nov. 6, let’s keep up the progress,” he says. “Together, let’s show how much we care about our environment.”

In one of his commercials, McGettigan hits on his main theme, which is taxing and spending.

“As we’ve grown, so has our county budget,” he says. “Spending is out of control, and we have to live within our means.”

In his other commercial, McGettigan says he has lived in Atlantic County all his life, “and I know what Atlantic County needs.”

http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/campaign/story/7508480p-7406400c.html

 

IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED….

“RARITAN TWP.: Township Committeewoman Chris Harcar yesterday sued two other prominent Republicans, Assemblywoman Marcia Karrow (R-Hunter don) and Hunterdon Freeholder George Melick, over a June 3 scuffle and its aftermath.

In her suit, filed in Superior Court in Flemington, Harcar contends Karrow assaulted her at a party phone bank on the eve of the June primary, when they were supporting opposing slates. The altercation left Harcar with a broken left arm and numerous bruises and cuts, according to the suit.

The suit accuses both Kar row and Melick of subsequently defaming Harcar by making pub lic statements that she was drunk at the time of the inci dent.

“We have a tape-recording of her right after the incident, and she’s clearly lucid,” said Harcar’s attorney William Courtney. “We also have witnesses who will tes tify that she didn’t have a drink all night.”

“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” said Melick last night about the lawsuit, declining further comment.

Karrow could not be reached for comment.” (Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/somerset/index.ssf?/base/news-2/1192078582288150.xml&coll=1

 

“HE WAS THE ONLY ONE I COULD HEAR… HE WON.”

“The race for mayor in Toms River has already seen one campaign fly off the rails, a GOP party boss in turmoil and the machinery of an old guard in peril as the townsfolk stand at the brink of a federal Superfund site that’s as big as the City of Hoboken.

In the midst of all of this, the three candidates for top dog in this Ocean County town of almost 90,000, with an annual $84 million budget, faced a sleepy audience last night in the gated retirement community of Greenbriar located off Route 70. This is a traditionally Republican burgh that’s been home to a GOP Council and for the most part a Democratic mayor since Toms River went from a township committee to a borough council form of government in 2002. Democrat Richard Strada, a former mayor, believes he has a egitimate shot at swinging the town into the blue column.

Following the back-to-back meltdowns of GOP Council President Gregory McGuckin’s campaign (unpaid tax liens) and Republican boss George Gilmore (alleged conflict-of-interest land deals), the Republicans stood up Tom Kelaher, a late entry attorney who appears to be in the bone-up stages of his campaign with less than a month left.

But Strada has more to worry about than Kelaher.

The independent GOP candidacy of Councilman Carmine Inteso, like Strada a former mayor from the township committee era, will likely play a significant factor in the race. Inteso’s running an aggressive public campaign, and he was the lone candidate in the debate last night who routinely climbed out of his chair, walked to the front of the stage, and engaged the older crowd with a booming voice. He drew the biggest post-debate circle of senior citizens.

“He was the only one I could hear,” said one man in his 60’s. “He won.”” (Pizarro, PoliticsNJ.com)

http://www.politicsnj.com/spite-it-all-strada-still-long-shot-toms-river-12540

 

IN DISTRICT 8

“Wounded last week by unfavorable news coverage highlighting his employment record, Assemblyman Francis Bodine went on the attack today in what his opponent in the District 8 State Senate race characterized as the actions of a desperate man.

“We feel good about it. This indicates they’re in trouble,” Burlington County Clerk Phil Haines said in response to an ethics complaint Bodine filed against him in two separate public forums.

At a press conference today, Bodine, a Democrat, presented letters he had written: one to Freeholder Director James Wujick and the other to the District Court Ethics Committee of the state Supreme Court, in which he charged Haines with moonlighting as a real estate attorney while collecting a six-figure salary as county clerk.

“In dealing with the county clerk’s office, members of the public may feel pressured or obligated to retain Mr. Haines’ counsel if they wish to have matters expedited of handled with care,” Bodine wrote. “This is the wrong message to send to taxpayers. …I feel that Mr. Haines in representing clients in matters related to municipal law, zoning, planning, land use, real estate and finance matters – has a direct conflict of interest.”

In response, Haines called Bodine’s attack “sad.”

“I am not with a law firm,” said Haines. “I don’t get compensated by a law firm.”

The Republican clerk said when he was first elected in 1999, he reviewed an opinion rendered in 1991 by the Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics and supported by the state Supreme Court. That decision states that it is not improper for a clerk to conduct a private law practice. As an 18-year practitioner of law in private practice at the time, Haines said he had 100s of clients when he was first elected clerk. ” (Pizarro, PoliticsNJ.com)

http://www.politicsnj.com/haines-defends-public-record-against-bodine-attack-12565

 

IN DISTRICT 9

“Democratic 9th District Assembly candidate Michele Rosen said Wednesday that she would remove health benefits for part-time government employees, increase the salary requirements for entry into pension programs and fight for universally transparent budgets if she is elected in November.

Rosen said there is currently far too much padding of budgets on the state, county and local levels, to the extent that all officials who approve budgets should be forced to swear under oath that tax dollars are “appropriately appropriated.”

“All budgets should be made transparent so people can see where their money is going. … And I agree with the right of initiative and referendum because people should have the right to vote on budgets,” said Rosen, adding that she also believes all county and local bond ordinances should have public hearings.

Real property tax reform should be addressed at all levels of government, Rosen said, because that is where property tax problems arise, calling local municipalities a microcosm of what happens in Trenton.

Rosen said she would like to see health benefits removed from part-time government employees, including state legislators – “which is not going to go over well with Democrats or Republicans,” she said.” (Spahr, Press of Atlantic City)

http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/campaign/story/7508479p-7406397c.html

 

PR AGENTS TAKE NOTE – YOU MAY NO LONGER FIND WORK IN WOODBRIDGE

“The Woodbridge mayoral seat is up for grabs in the November elections as incumbent Democrat John McCormac is seeking his first full four-year term in the face of a challenge by Republican candidate John Vrtaric.

McCormac won a special election last year to finish the remaining term of Mayor Frank Pelzman, who died in office. Vrtaric is hoping the second time’s the charm. He ran unsuccessfully against James McGreevey in the 1999 mayoral race as an independent.

Vrtaric, a township business owner, said his many years of experience as a successful businessman with two hairdressing shops on Amboy Avenue and his real estate investments make him an ideal person to lead Woodbridge. He calls himself the living embodiment of the American dream. He immigrated as a young man from the former Yugoslavian republic of Croatia in 1961.

“I’ve always been conservative,” Vrtaric said. “We stood up against communism.”

As mayor, Vrtaric said he would bring fiscal responsibility to Woodbridge by reigning in tax increases and cutting waste from “top to bottom.”

“We’re going to self-destruct in Woodbridge if we go the way we’re going,” he said. “In the riots during the 1960s, people were flocking to Woodbridge. Now people are leaving Woodbridge. The taxes have gone up in Woodbridge.”

Vrtaric said he would sell off township property, get rid of the expensive municipal sports utility vehicles and even fire John Hagerty, the town spokesman.

“I’m not a movie star. I don’t need a PR person,” Vrtaric said.” (Adarlo, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/middlesex/index.ssf?/base/news-3/1192077968259030.xml&coll=1

 

IN GUTTENBERG, THEY MANAGE TO PACK A LOT OF INTRIGUE INTO 0.2 SQUARE MILES

“GUTTENBERG – The Town Council canceled its caucus at the last minute Tuesday night, denying disappointed residents their first opportunity to hear from the council since Mayor David Delle Donna and his wife were indicted on corruption charges.

Roughly 20 residents who showed up for the scheduled meeting were met by a purple, misspelled sign saying the meeting was canceled “do to lack of quorum” – meaning there weren’t enough members to hold a vote.

“The council still has to run the town,” said Gonzalo Perez, a 70th Street resident. “The mayor’s indictment is encroaching on town business.”

Delle Donna and his wife Anna were indicted on Sept. 28 on charges they diverted campaign cash. Each was charged with one count each of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and extortion.

As of mid-afternoon Tuesday, town officials confirmed the meeting would be held as scheduled.

Mario Falato, of 68th Street, said he planned to deliver a letter to the Town Council saying the indictment of Delle Donna and his wife casts a “dark cloud” over the governing body and asking it to demand the mayor resign or the council would bear the “stigma of wrongdoing.”

“It is in the best interests of the town if the mayor steps down,” Falato said.” (Hack, Jersey Journal)

http://www.nj.com/news/jjournal/index.ssf?/base/news-0/119208477499500.xml&coll=3

 

SEPARATE BUT EQUAL?

“Eight months after the state began allowing civil unions, same sex couples say they are not working as planned.

“Different but equal has never worked in our communities or our nation,” said Paul Walker, of Belleville, Essex County. “We know that from segregation.”

Walker was one of more than 40 people who attended a hearing at Camden County College Wednesday, the second of three scheduled before the state Civil Union Review Commission on the effectiveness of civil unions.

From employers denying benefits to civil union partners, to hospital officials requesting a civil union certificate before designating a gay partner as the emergency contact for a surgery, those who attended offered their stories as evidence that gay couples who have entered civil unions are not afforded the same rights as heterosexuals who are legally married.

“This is not a theoretical debate,” said Anne Lynn Benson, of Clementon, Camden County.

Benson attended the hearing with her friends, a gay couple from Woodbury who she said felt discriminated against when they requested a civil union ceremony at the Gloucester County Courthouse in Woodbury.

“They were given two Tuesday’s to show up at 3:30 p.m.,” she told the commission. “One on 9-11.” ” (Graber, Gloucester County Times)

http://www.nj.com/news/gloucester/index.ssf?/base/news-2/119208660373650.xml&coll=8

 

ACCORDING TO A T-SHIRT, ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE HERE

“New Jersey’s accelerating population loss is starting to have significant economic and fiscal consequences for the state, according to a Rutgers University report that found the state may be becoming a less attractive locale.

The report found the state lost 231,565 people between 2002 and 2006, including 72,547 people last year. The latter was the fourth-highest loss in the nation behind only California, Louisiana and New York.

Meanwhile, North Carolina grew by 807,000 people over the four-year period, displacing New Jersey last year as the nation’s 10th-most-populous state, the report stated.

When lost income and sales taxes from the people who left New Jersey are considered, the population drain is estimated to have cost the state $680 million in tax revenue last year, the report found.

That estimated loss comes with the state confronting annual budget deficits and struggling to meet billions of dollars in unmet needs. The projected budget deficit could be as large as $3.5 billion next year, according to Gov. Corzine.

The Rutgers report was written by James W. Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, and Joseph J. Seneca, an economics professor at the university.

“The population outflow is real, is approaching worrisome dimensions and is exerting a small, but increasingly negative impact on the New Jersey economy,” they wrote. (Hester, AP)

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/local/nj/20071011_Report__N_J__population_drain_is_damaging_to_state.html

 

CORZINE’S ANTI-CRIME PLAN ROLE OUT

“The state will overhaul how it funds programs that give kids alternatives to gangs and drugs after a months-long review found the current system in disarray, Gov. Jon Corzine said yesterday.

Unveiling the second part of his three-part anti-crime initiative, Corzine said a lack of coordination among various state agencies has led to the duplication of some services while allowing others to be ignored altogether. At the same time, the state has had no way of knowing if the programs it funds actually reduce delinquency and crime.

The result is some teenagers who might have been saved have instead been lost to gangs, drug use, teen pregnancy and truancy, the governor said.

“We need alternative prospects to what the streets might provide to young people,” Corzine said during a news conference at the Boys and Girls Club of Newark. “It’s time that we start investing in things that are right and proven. I’m not sure that we’ve always done that.”

Corzine said he would appoint a “prevention coordinator” to oversee how 10 state departments dole out more than $35 million for programs to battle truancy and delinquency, provide job skills and summer work, and give kids a place to play away from the streets.

Saying the effort must involve community input, the state will ask county and local governments to decide which programs are most needed in their area, Corzine said. Those programs must be proven to prevent or reduce the likelihood a child enrolled in it will turn to gangs. And the state plans to evaluate the programs going forward to make sure they do the job.

The state will create a Web site where parents can turn to find out what’s being offered in their hometowns. It also plans to open up “family success centers” where youths can go to participate in job-training classes, tutoring and other programs. ” (Hepp, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-8/1192078078259030.xml&coll=1

 

SO MOVE TO NEW HAMPSHIRE

“Libertarian Jason Scheurer of West Windsor claims the Clean and Fair Elections pilot program has been clean – but hardly fair.

A candidate for the Assembly in the 14th District who wants hiring freezes and no new taxes, Scheurer filed suit Wednesday in state Superior Court in Middlesex County against the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Division and Gov. Jon Corzine.

A candidate for the Assembly in the 14th District who wants hiring freezes and no new taxes, Scheurer filed suit Wednesday in state Superior Court in Middlesex County against the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Division and Gov. Jon Corzine.

In this largely publicly-funded elections district, Scheurer as a third-party candidate can only receive a tenth of what candidates in the two major parties are subject to get under the provisions of the elections pilot program.

He has qualified for and received $23,519 toward his campaign. He can receive up to $50,000, while each Democrat or Republican in the race can get up to $526,375 for his or her campaign.

“I’m fairly certain this will be overturned,” Scheurer said of the funding limit. “The question is are they going to expedite the situation in time” – before Election Day on Nov. 6th. (Pizarro, PoliticsNJ.com)

http://www.politicsnj.com/libertarian-unhappy-government-including-publicly-funded-elections-12571

 

IN SOMERSET COUNTY

“More than two dozen Somerset County employees have lost their taxpayer-financed set of wheels.

Under fierce public scrutiny over perks, the Somerset freeholders have cut the number of county employees given cars from 26 to 16, while the park commission eliminated all assigned cars, taking back vehicles from 15 employees.

Following a highly critical report questioning why park employees needed vehicles, the county during the summer asked the park commission to follow the same car policy as the county.

Following a highly critical report questioning why park employees needed vehicles, the county during the summer asked the park commission to follow the same car policy as the county.

But the freeholders acknowledged their own policy needed revisions, and came up with a new one that assigned cars based on need rather than on titles.

“The rationale is essentially people who have responsibilities where they have to report after hours for emergencies,” said Patricia Clark, the county’s policy di rector.

A new list released yesterday showed 16 county workers who are still permitted cars, the majority of them in the public works, engineering or roads and bridges department. Several top administrators had turned in their cars before the policy spelled out who could keep them. ” (McCarron and Tyrell, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/somerset/index.ssf?/base/news-2/1192078522288150.xml&coll=1

 

IN MERCER COUNTY

“The Democratic incumbents are ahead in fundraising in two of the most prominent local elections this fall, according to the most recent campaign finance filings.

Democratic Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes has raised a total of $338,653.87 and Hamilton Mayor Glen Gilmore, also a Democrat, has raised $169,858.70, according to the reports, which were filed Tuesday.

Janice Mitchell Mintz, Hughes’ Republican challenger, has raised $47,243.33, while John Bencivengo, the Republican challenging Gilmore, has raised $64,087.10.

Both Democrats have raised less money than they had at a similar point four years ago, as has Mintz compared with Catherine Di Costanzo, the Republican county executive candidate in 2003. Bencivengo’s fundraising is outpacing Jack Lacy’s 2003 campaign to be mayor.

“It’s obviously scaled down,” Mercer County Democratic Chairman Rich McClellan said of the size of the campaigns. He attributed the change to pay-to-play ordinances passed at both the county and municipal level. He added that while there is less money, candidates have to spend more time fundraising to meet the same goals. ” (Kitchenman, Trenton Times)

http://www.nj.com/news/times/regional/index.ssf?/base/news-11/1192075667165340.xml&coll=5

 

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST

“A look of anguish creased Yolanda Lane‘s face as she turned from the judge to her family sitting in the gallery behind her after receiving her sentence — 12 months and 1 day in federal prison for taking a $300 bribe…..

A former lead paint inspector for Paterson’s Division of Health, Lane stood next to her lawyer Wednesday as U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares sentenced her to prison for her involvement with an undercover witness who gave her cash for speedy service. Lane, 38, was the first to be sentenced of the 14 mostly low-level public employees arrested on various corruption charges in March.

Upon their arrest, U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie said his office would prosecute corruption on any scale and that he is “not swayed by the size of the catch.” Lane was one of those who took the least amount of money from the cooperating witness, who portrayed himself as a property manager but was really working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and investigators with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.” (MacInnes, Herald News)

http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXkzJmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MjA2MzM1JnlyaXJ5N2Y3MTdmN3ZxZWVFRXl5Mw==

 

OINK!

“JERSEY CITY – Confronted with a state investigation into a conflict of interest involving his wife, Ed Ciolko, Jersey City’s former building subcode official, gave up his position in February and surrendered his building inspector’s license.

But Ciolko is still pulling down a hefty paycheck from the city of Jersey City.

Reassigned to the Business Administrator’s Office to keep tabs on abatement projects and various construction efforts, Ciolko earns $66,700 a year. Indeed, last June he received a $1,500 pay hike. The raise was required by his union contract, city officials said yesterday.

e also received high praise from the city’s top official yesterday.

“Due to an investigation conducted by the state, Ed Ciolko decided to give up his building inspector’s license, but that does not prohibit him from using his knowledge to benefit the city,” Mayor Jerramiah Healy stated yesterday.

“Ed has proven to be a good worker and is knowledgeable in the construction industry,” Healy added. “We are utilizing his expertise in various capital improvement projects.”

According to several sources and Ciolko himself, his conflict had to do with the fact inspectors working for him conducted inspections on at least three properties his wife, Anna Maria Ciolko, a licensed Realtor, was selling.

It’s against state statute for the subcode official to personally profit from actions he or his workers take, officials said. ” (Thorbourne, Jersey Journal)

http://www.nj.com/news/jjournal/index.ssf?/base/news-5/119208439099500.xml&coll=3

KEVIN SMITH SHOULD RUN FOR COUNCIL

“RED BANK — The community room in the Riverside Commons senior housing building was standing room only to hear and question Democrats, headed by Council President Sharon Lee, who is running with Zoning Board of Adjustment member Kathleen Horgan for two three-year terms. Historic Preservation Committee member Edward Zipprich is running for a one-year unexpired term.

Republicans were represented by Councilwoman Mary Grace Cangemi, running for the one-year unexpired term she was appointed to; she was joined by citizen activist John Tyler Jr. Candidate James Coolahan, running for a three-year term, had a business emergency and was unable to attend.” (Higgs, Asbury Park Press)

http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071011/NEWS01/710110443/1004/NEWS01

 

IN SAYREVILLE

“Between driving to night meetings, attending local events and paying his cell phone bill, Sayreville Councilman Stanley Drwalesti mates he spends several hundred dollars a month on borough-related business.

So when Sayreville Mayor Kennedy O’Brien suggested that the council members give up their $5,200 annual salaries as a cost-cutting measure, it irked him. O’Brien raised the proposal at last week’s council meeting after the board voted unanimously to eliminate taxpayer-funded health insurance for council members.

Council President Tom Pollando, who is running against O’Brien for mayor in the November election, suggested the health benefits cut for all elected official, since half of the council members were not using the insurance.” (Steele, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/middlesex/index.ssf?/base/news-3/1192078176259030.xml&coll=1

 

IN PINE BEACH

“At one time, this borough was considered the pearl of the Toms River, a councilman declared.

“The pearl has lost some of its luster,” Lawrence W. Cuneo said. “We have to bring it back to the way it should be.”

The Republican, who is running for mayor in November’s election, said sprucing up the town would be one of his priorities if he won. He would replace the playground equipment that has been removed along the beach and would fix the holes in the gazebo roofs, he said.” (Reiss, Asbury Park Press)

http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071011/POLITICS/710110471/1070/NEWS02

 

NOT SURE IF THIS IS FUNNY OR SAD

“Three Dover officials say they’ve found a serious homeland security threat to chew on: gumballs. They worry the colorful round treats could be poisoned by an enterprising terrorist who sees them as bait for unsuspecting targets — young kids.

So, with the approval of the mayor and the skepticism of the police chief in this central Morris County town of 18,000, the three aldermen are in the middle of a nine-month inspection of Dover’s coin-operated gumball and candy machines. Thus far, they have surveyed 103 local businesses about their machines.

Led by Alderman Frank Poolas, who envisioned the project and enlisted the aid of fellow Aldermen Jack Delaney and Michael Picciallo, the trio began their investigation six months ago and plan to report their results to Mayor James Dodd Jan. 1.

Already they say they’ve discovered more than 100 unlicensed coin-operated machines in town — many filled with gumballs, jawbreakers and other candies they call perfect for potential terrorists.

The security threat should be “looked at seriously in light of what has happened so far,” said Poolas. “Someone who wanted to do harm really could.”

However, Police Chief Harold “Butch” Valentine said the police department has no reason to believe terrorists are even contemplating contaminating candy.

“We’ve never received any information to the contrary. The gumballs are safe,” he said. ” (O’Connor, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-8/1192077903259030.xml&coll=1

 

 

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